With the Danish monarchs having absolute power after 1660 there were times when relying on a minister was essential. This happened during the reign of King Christian VII (1766-1808). The entire reign of Christian VII was taken up with the king’s mental illness. Because of the kings incapacity many ministers vied for power. In the late 1760s, Christian VII came under the influence of his personal physician, the German born Johann Friedrich Struensee. By 1770 Struensee had risen to completely control the king and was the “de facto” regent of the country. In 1772 Struensee introduced progressive reforms that was signed into law by Christian VII. Struensee also had complete control over the Queen Caroline-Matilda. Struensee was very unpopular in Denmark and also in the year he was deposed by a coup in 1772. Although Christian VII remained in power the country was ruled by Christian’s stepmother, Princess Juliane Marie of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, his half-brother Frederik and the Danish politician Ove Høegh-Guldberg.
King Christian VII was married to his first cousin Princess Caroline-Matilda of Great Britain, the brother of King George III of Great Britain, Elector of Hanover. The marriage was doomed from the start. At the age of fifteen, Caroline Matilda left Britain in order to travel to Denmark and marry her cousin, Christian VII of Denmark. The wedding took place on November 8, 1766 at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. Her eldest brother, King George III, was anxious about the marriage, even though he wasn’t fully aware that the bridegroom was mentally ill. Caroline-Matilda was described as vivid and charming and although not considered conventionally pretty she was regarded as attractive. However, her natural and unaffected personality was not popular at the strict Danish court. She was close to her first lady-in-waiting, Louise von Plessen, who regarded the king’s friends as immoral and acted to isolate Caroline-Matilda from her husband. This was not difficult as her husband did not like her. The Danish king was persuaded to consummate the marriage for the sake of the succession, and after a son was born (future Frederik VI), Christian VII turned his interest to courtesan Støvlet-Cathrine, with whom he visited the brothels of Copenhagen. Caroline-Matilda was unhappy in her marriage, neglected and spurned by the king. When Plessen was exiled from court in 1768, she lost her closest confidante, leaving her even more isolated.
In time Queen Caroline-Matlida became friends and eventual lover of the king’s minister, Johann Friedrich Struensee. Since marital relations between Caroline-Matilda and Christian VII had ceased it is very likely that Caroline-Matilda’s daughter, Princess Louise Auguste of Denmark was Johann Friedrich Struensee was the biological daughter even though Christian VII did not deny or contest paternity. Since the population of Denmark was extremely loyal to the royal family the rumor of an affair between the Queen and Struensee was not tolerated. In January of 1772 both Struensee and the queen were arrested. The marriage of Caroline-Matilda and Christian VII was dissolved by divorce in April 1772. After the divorce, Johann Friedrich Struensee and his accomplice Count Enevold Brandt were executed on April 28,1772.
On May 28, 1772, Caroline-Matilda was deported on board a British frigate to Celle, Hanover and was inprisoned at Celle Castle in her brother’s German territory of Hanover. She never saw her children again. In 1774, she became the center of a plot with the intent to make her the regent of Denmark as the guardian of her son, Crown Prince Frederik, instigated by Ernst Schimmelmann with the Englishman Nathaniel Wraxall as a messenger. Wraxall met her many times and she used him as messenger to her brother, whose support she desired. She herself wrote a letter to her brother George III in 1775, in which she asked for his approval for the plan, which she referred to as “this scheme for my son’s happiness.” However, the coup fell apart when Caroline-Matilda died suddenly of scarlet fever at Celle on May 1775 at the age of only 23.
Nest week is the start of Liberal reform in Denmark.